No PRaise from the boss


Apple's Steve Jobs was a tough boss.

Apple’s Steve Jobs was a tough boss.

A PR blog I recently read featured an article from Cheryl Conner in Forbes titled, “Why Toughest Bosses Are Best.”  She wrote that bosses who set high expectations, never give unearned praise, and articulate clear goals and milestones are most desirable.  She posted Jill Geisler’s “Seven Deadly Sins of the Too-Nice Boss,” which lists how softies-in-charge get little accomplished. I began reflecting on my own bosses during my 31 years working and teaching in public relations.

Not counting agency work, I had 15 different bosses in that time period, from college presidents to politicians to heads of nonprofits.  Only a handful were “tough,” and the others were somewhere between wishy-washy and downright silly.  The silly bosses were self-absorbed and unfocused, and were most concerned about their next promotion or job.  The wishy-washy bosses were either competent professionals who rarely took a stand; or they were too nice, allowing for staff complacency and incompetence.  This only resulted in frustration for those who worked hard to pick up the slack.

I think my least favorite boss was the person who wanted my suggestions but never empowered me to take action.  That individual would endorse my plans one day and nix them the next without explaining why.

My tough bosses could be very tough.  One of them never praised, or said “thank you;” his autocratic style sometimes scared me.  But he set the bar high and expected his staff to reach it, which made me try to look at my work through his eyes.  My favorite tough bosses were very smart and would respect the work done by my colleagues and me, taking the time to explain the rationale behind their decisions.

Extremely high on my boss list was the person who gave me my first PR job.  She was a true professional and a mentor.  Like a good teacher, she allowed me to make decisions and mistakes, encouraged me to be self-reliant, and always took the time to explain.  I’ll always be indebted to her, one of my kindest–and toughest–bosses.  Your thoughts?

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28 responses

  1. Christina Sewell | Reply

    I’ve had my share of different bosses and I must say the most admired one, is the one that keeps my senses sharp. Pushover’s don’t work for a business but neither does a harsh dictator. The perfect boss has an understanding of their business’ and their employees need

  2. I think that the most important thing would be having a boss that challenges you in the best way possible. The one that builds you up as a professional. The one that is dedicated, focused and tough, but still acknowledges you and praises you for the things you did right.

  3. I was always taught that the people you admire most are the ones that challenge you. How can you admire and respect someone who doesn’t challenge you or show some tough love? Although I’ve never had a professional job, I’ve always respected my tough teachers in high school and college. If you’re being challenged to better yourself, its for your own good.

  4. I think that certain industries require certain personalities. The world of public relations you need to be tough. I think in this setting a tough boss might work to your advantage. I have had the pleasure of experiencing different management styles and I must say the one that sticks most is from my toughest boss so I have to agree with Professor Morosoff. My toughest boss always made me set my own bar higher when it came to my work and how I approached it. She never gave me praise for anything so I was always unsure of how I was doing and that added to me constantly improving my performance. In the end, it was worth it. I learned from her that I could be exceptional when I worked hard for it.

  5. I strongly believe that the tougher the boss, the greater the company and the greater the employee you become. There should always be someone around to keep you on your toes. Having a boss that is willing to push you and watch you growth is a lot better than having a boss that is always telling you have great you are and you are stuck there your whole life. Having a boss who is too easy going may seem great to some people because they feel they can take advantage and they may feel that they have done a fabulous job. The issue with that is that you are not growing as an employee and who knows you truly could have more potential. Tough bosses make the work worth it and in the end they are the ones you will remember. It is just like that one tough coach you had growing up who got you to where you were later on in life.

  6. Devon Hambrecht | Reply

    I have been lucky enough to have some amazing bosses throughout my various jobs and PR internships. I agree, the meaner ones have been the ones in higher positions. I know I am only going to meet more bosses that may have a mean bone, but become amazing teachers and mentors. I don’t mind a boss being hard on me, I think it is necessary in the adult world to be able to handle a relationship as such. I know PR is supposed to have some harder leading individuals, and i am ready for this challenge.

  7. I think many positives come out of having a stern, challenging, “tough” boss. However, there also needs to be a sense of encouragement and appreciation.

  8. I agree that tough bosses can be very rewarding. They push you to push yourself since rewards and kind words definitely have to be earned. But I think there’s a fine balance most bosses have to find between encouraging employees and coddling. I think some bosses forget the importance of telling their employee’s that they’re valued. IT doesn’t have to be a big to-do, just a pat on the back and a “good job,” works just fine.

  9. I’ve worked under two “tough” bosses in my two serious jobs. I believe one sort of “ruled with fear” where I always wanted to please him, but was afraid to approach him. Even though he is a life long friend of my father, I think the way he talks to his employees is too tough. There should be a balance of respect and ease. My other boss was very intimidating, but I had a connection with. I always felt the need to please, and do a good job. He always kind of pushed me, and saw my potential. I think it’s important for bosses to connect with their employees and make work more personal. I’ve also myself have had my own staff, and it makes working more enjoyable with personal relationships.

  10. Avalon Bohunicky | Reply

    I believe that bosses should be stern not because they are in power, but because they want their employees to reach goals and be effective. Employees need to be empowered to try their hardest and achieve the most that they can. If a boss is lenient, workers do not feel the desire to put a true effort in their job. I work at a jewelry store where my boss encourages the employees to sell, sell and sell more. He tends to be very unorganized and forgetful, which frustrates my co-workers and I. My boss gives immediate praise when I have done well, but I believe that he, along with many other bosses, struggles to give long-term recognition for workers. It feels nice to get some recognition for good work once it happens, but it feels like it is soon forgotten about. If my boss was more organized and appreciative, it would push me to work even harder. Bosses have earned their spot in charge of employees, and they should act like they deserved it. It is the employees’ responsibility to show them that they are capable of one day taking their position.

  11. I prefer tough bosses. In the past I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working for individuals who were too concerned with being nice. While being considerate and respectful to your employees is certainly, it’s hard to respect someone who doesn’t display some resilience and tenacity. I prefer direct orders and clear instructions, even if the speaker is bossy, to wish-washy direction any day.

  12. I do believe that you have to be a tough boss in order to make your team to achieve their goals but I don’t think bosses should be too tough. Bosses should push the employees to a point that would make them work harder than ever. At the same, a lot of people have breaking points and are little more sensitive than others. If a boss says something that’s inappropriate or something that’s gone to far, than it could be a serious issue. So it’s important to be tough but not too tough.

  13. Among the most respected bosses I’ve had, I enjoyed working with the ones who were intelligent and understood the business well. I trusted their direction and I didn’t mind working hard on projects because I had faith their decisions would lead to fruitful outcomes. I prefer bosses that influence my performance by their high work ethic and integrity, not necessary the ones that rule by the power granted in their titles. Oh! and I like all bosses who praise my work ;)

  14. Alexandria Alicea | Reply

    I’ve had a few bosses and surprisingly each of them were very different from one another. I can’t say that I’ve yet to have a “tough” boss but I’ve definitely had a couple that should have improved their people skills before taking on the position. I’ve delt more with a few bosses that did not realize how much responsibility they were held to and refused to acknowledge problems that occurred under their watch. I’ve also dealt with a boss who wanted to be everyone’s friend, but when it came time to discipline they were not taken seriously. I would prefer a boss that allows me to make mistakes and allows me to grow during my experience instead of expecting perfection at all times; however, I also prefer a boss that is tough with a purpose. There’s no point in being difficult with your employees if the work is still not getting done. I’d like look at a boss more as a critic and my work as an opportunity to learn what I am fully capable of.

  15. Bosses, in a sense, are like professors. Both are put in their positions to guide and to teach, and so, in a practical world, a boss should find the balance between being kind and understanding, while remaining stern and molding, like a professor. Finding Aristotle’s Golden Mean between cruelty and mercy is what would be most beneficial to young professionals. Being too kind can be detrimental to a young professional’s future because they miss out on important lessons like learning to take constructive criticism and owning up to their mistakes, while being too cruel can cause them to feel disgruntled and dispassionate about their job. Take for example, the experiences (although it is a fictionalized account of true events) of the protagonist in “The Devil Wears Prada”. Her boss is so cruel at times that she has come to call her the devil, yet if it were not for her bosses expectation for everything to be in tip top order, the protagonist would not have learned to work under pressure.

  16. Francesco Vivacqua | Reply

    There definitely needs to be a balance between toughness and kindness. I believe that when bosses are too tough, it strikes fear in employees. Sometimes this is needed, but many bosses abuse this approach, resulting in unhappy workers. Which could ultimately lead to poor productivity by workers, because they may feel that the boss is out to get them. However, a boss cannot be too nice, because employees will almost 90% of the time take advantage of it. Some bosses will never fire anybody because he/she is too nice. This can be a problem, because as a person in charge, it is his/her responsibility to make decisions that is right for the company and/or organization. This means that employees need to be accountable for their work, where poor productivity should be penalized so that the bar is held high. Only the boss can enforce this, which is the reason that he/she needs to be firm in executing it. So, toughness is needed, but too much toughness can also work against a boss. It’s always about finding a balance.

  17. I have had quite a few bosses, and I’ve found that the most influential were the ones who set clear goals and expectations, and didn’t waver from them. It is important to have set rules within the workspace, it sets the mood for the whole team of employees. With that being said, a tyrant-like boss might foster a difficult workspace, and a hippie-like boss might result in lackluster performance. A balance of both of these characteristics would be beneficial in a boss. If employees know exactly what to expect, and know what needs to be done they are more likely to complete the tasks correct the first time. Then if they are praised for the good work, they will feel better about their performance.

  18. I think that it comes down to there being a perfect balance between a boss that is tough enough to challenge you and make you better yourself, but is at the same time kind enough to create a comfortable environment to learn in.
    There are key differences between someone who is tough and someone who is mean or impatient.

    At my internship right now, I really appreciate my supervisor for being someone who is so willing to teach me, and who I feel so comfortable working for, but yet she gives me opportunities to grow and forces me to put myself out of my comfort zone enough to really improve myself and truly learn.

  19. Katherine Hammer | Reply

    I personally believe that stern and tough bosses benefit in the long run. I think it encourages people that you have to rise up to the bar and to challenge yourself. At my last job, my boss was extremely stern, and when she was, there was no way that you could put anything off. If you did what she asked without complaint, she would give praise only when the job was completed to her expectations. I always felt that I would get it done faster because I knew that she would not be happy if it wasn’t done correctly, and I wanted to show her that I do work hard. Her bossiness made me learn and understand that you have to put in the extra mile in order to get something in return. Throughout this job I learned that respect is earned, and to get that respect you need to show that you are willing to put in more than just asked of you. I think that with tough bosses, you will get a lot of learning experiences in the long run, and it will benefit you in the future.

  20. I rather a nice boss. I hate tough bosses. Yes they push you to do more, but at times it can be stressful. I don’t want to wake up everyday hating my job. My best bosses were the nice and flexible ones. I like to be acknowledge of my hard work. There are nice bosses that will assist you, but will still have that boundary of employer and employee.

  21. Olga Varnavskaya | Reply

    A demanding but inspiring boss is the right one. That’s a sign of a true leader. But as it happens, not everyone has a talent to be a leader. Thus not all tough bosses are gifted in that sense. While one boss can stimulate his employees for higher goals, set the bar of high expectations by his toughness, another one can just discourage the people and make them lose faith in themselves.
    It’s frustrating when the toughness of a boss borders with despotic behavior and rudeness. I once have to quit a new job after a week of work, just because I heard how my boss, the director of a factory, shouted with unprintable curses at one of the employees. I heard that scream behind the double door. I just realized that my understanding of high standards of corporate culture was too different from his, and I didn’t belong there.

  22. LaChele Prophet | Reply

    I don’t mind having a boss that is tough, but not to the point where you are scared to approach them about things at work. I like having a boss who is tough on me, but in a way where they want me to succeed. If a boss is going to be tough on me to the point where I feel disrespected and not valued, I may have to quit. I like a boss who gives me feedback and lets me know what I am doing wrong and gives me suggestions on how to fix things but also being kind. A boss can’t be too laid back because then people start to take advantage.

  23. Laura Schioppi | Reply

    I believe every boss should be tough and kind at the same time. A boss that is too tough is someone you will eventually dislike and not respect because they are not respecting you. A boss that is too caring seems like you can walk all over them. However, I rather have a boss that is nice to me than one that is screaming at me. It’s important for a boss to have a gentle matter to go about work, but also make sure they are in charge of their employees. Be strong yet polite can make the work environment go a long way.

  24. I believe that tough bosses help shape you into a better and harder worker. My generation is seen as the “trophy” generation where everyone wins no one can lose because it will hurt someone’s feelings.This mentality is starting to produce workers that feel entitled. We are not entitled to anything unless we work for it, and having the boss give a reality check is not a bad thing. I believe hard work stems from passion and wanting to be a good worker, not by the reward that comes in a little envelope. Tough bosses force us to understand that we must preform in order to get the praise that want to receive. Bosses are figures of authority that are to be respected, listened to, and thought of while you are in the workplace. In my experience from working in retail, I always worked harder when the store manager was working because I wanted her to know that I dedicated myself to my job and tried to be the best worker possible. She constantly gave me constructive criticism that helped me grow as an employee. I appreciate everything she did for me and still think of her with a high level of respect.

  25. Catherine Benny | Reply

    I don’t have any work experience yet so it’s a bit difficult for me to contribute my thoughts , but I believe that the best boss would be someone who is balanced. As someone who is shy and afraid to disappoint, I would be terrified if I had an autocratic boss, however I would never want a boss who treats me like a little kid and applauds every little thing I do. I think a good boss should be firm but easy to talk to and should tell you your strengths and weaknesses so you can go in the right direction.

  26. I believe that in order to be in a position of power you need to be tough. If you don’t have a backbone people will walk all over you therefore work will not be completed in the right way. It’s nice to have a boss that is tough and assertive yet knows the right time to be kind and understanding.

  27. Brittany Witter | Reply

    I believe that being a tough boss can very productive and can also be a negative as well. I think being a tough boss is productive because it pushes your employees to work hard and complete their task efficiently. However, if you are a boss that gives no feedback or support you can make you team a bit confused and unmotivated. I personal like when my boss tells me I have done a good job or gives me feedback on my mistakes or things I could do better, this helps me learn and improve my efforts.

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